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Blake grew up in the inland Northwest and attended the University of Idaho. In 1989 she left Idaho for Los Angeles where she spent the next thirteen years in business development for publishing and technology industries. In 1999, she relocated to the East Coast where she continued to build success in business development for technology, fitness, and retail industries. Blake was a member of the oral storytelling group Mouse Muse before she decided to put her memoirs to paper. She found Westport Writers' Workshop and fell in love with their workshops and community spirit. In 2015, Blake joined the Board of Directors and has served as Treasurer and Chairman of the Board of Directors. She is excited to serve as Executive Director and continue to nurture Westport Writers' creative writing workshops, outreach programs, and community events. Blake lives in Westport, CT with her husband, two children and two dogs.

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Elizabeth Foley grew up in South Jersey, moved to California after college to begin her career in office management in the entertainment industry. After spending many years in LA, she moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Elizabeth grew her skills in office management, project management which eventually lead to becoming a Business & Marketing Director. She also runs her own photography business, working with small and large businesses to capture content for their social media and marketing collateral. Elizabeth relocated to Connecticut in 2022 with her family and joined Westport Writers' Workshop shortly after. She is thrilled to be a part of the WWW community and serve as the Office Manager. 




Liz is a writer and editor who received her M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts (2008) and M.A. in English Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Liz began her professional career in publishing, both at a literary agency and as an Editorial Assistant at Random House before teaching middle and high school English at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Quality Women’s Fiction, Town & Country, Literary Mama, Brain Child, Mothers Always Write, The Rumpus, and Big Fiction Little Truths among other places. Liz teaches Introductory & Intermediate Fiction, Flash Fiction, and Creative Writing.

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Jessie McEntee is the Poet Laureate for Westport as well as a long-time fiction instructor at WWW; she also provides editorial services and coaching. In addition, she's worked in house doing marketing and communications at WWW in the past and is delighted to resume her former duties as of June 2023. She also heads marketing and communications at Pequot Library in Southport.  

Board of Directors

Our Board of Directors works hard to ensure that our programs and workshops meet the needs and criteria of our students. They each come from a background that showcases their love and passion for reading, writing, and volunteering.



Beth Criswell has been writing with Westport Writers’ Workshop for over five years where she has developed her craft and enjoys diving into her YA high fantasy world series.  She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and brings prior experience as a member of other local nonprofit boards and organizations, and as an attorney.  

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Kanwalroop Kathy Dhanda is passionate about the environment and the protection of natural resources. She is a Professor of Management at Sacred Heart University and her scholarly work focuses on sustainability issues. She has published about 40 journal articles and co-authored two books.  She loves to read and travel in her free time.  Recently, with the encouragement of instructors at the Westport Writers’ Workshop, she has begun working on a memoir and short stories that she hopes to publish someday.  Kathy graduated cum laude from Angelo State University and received her doctorate degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  She lives in Wilton with her husband, Adrian, and her two children, Arman and Ariana. 



Leila Shields has enjoyed the inspiration and instruction offered by the Westport Writers Workshop for many years, experiencing classes with various instructors and students in both memoir and fiction; she’s currently at work finishing her first manuscript. Dedicated to the arts, she serves on the board of Norwalk’s Shakespeare on the Sound. Currently a middle school Language Arts teacher at Wilton’s Montessori School, Leila was previously a writer and editor with Condé Nast Publications, specifically for Allure, Self, and Women’s Sports & Fitness Magazines. She’s a graduate of Yale University and Phillips Academy Andover, where she currently contributes as a Head Agent and member of Andover’s Alumni Council and Development Board. She lives in Westport with her husband, three children, and two dogs.

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Michelle loves words. She loves books, libraries, independent bookstores, and readings. She thinks the greatest invention of all time is the Guttenberg Printing Press.  

Michelle especially loves the Westport Writers’ Workshop. She joined the Board as Secretary in 2016. She served as the Executive Director for two years before moving to Chicago to join her husband in his new job. In Hong Kong, Michelle wrote for several English language publications: she co-wrote and edited the revised expat guide - How To Set Up In Hong Kong; she reported for Asia Precious, a jewelry trade magazine; and she wrote articles for the American Women’s Club monthly newsletter, and edited their annual cookbook. In Bangkok, she was Chairman of Charity for BAMBI, an expat organization, and she served as Vice President of the historic Neilson Hayes Library for four years. Before moving abroad, Michelle spent thirteen years working in Democratic politics in Richmond, Virginia and Washington, DC. She writes personal essays and flash, often infused with poetry and nature prose. Her poetry has been published in Brain Teen



Linda Perani Waterbury encourages everyone around her to write! Her belief that each person has a voice has translated into creating a new writing program for middle school girls at the Boys and Girls Club in Stamford. Educated at Skidmore College, Class of ‘80, Linda raised two daughters with her husband, Jim, while living in three foreign countries and various cities across the USA. Her sales and marketing career began in NYC with Saratoga Mineral Water. She’s worked at Lehman Brothers, Compton Advertising and The Legal Times division of Harcourt Brace. Throughout both the college years and the child-rearing years, Linda has taken on leadership roles in her local community, serving as an enthusiastic fundraiser for many organizations, including WWW, SAVE the Children, Skidmore College and Hamilton College. For many years, she has also taught Sunday school at St. Michael’s in Greenwich, CT.



Alyssa Katz writes about anything and everything and has been published in a variety of journals. She is currently working on a collection of poems and flash essays. Alyssa has participated and enjoyed many classes at Westport Writers over the years and credits the wonderful instructors for inspiring prompts. When not stewing over a poem, Alyssa writes and performs stand-up comedy hoping to improve the world one joke at a time. Having a legal and mediation background, Alyssa joins the Board at Westport Writers as a governance representative.



Galia Gichon is an independent personal financial expert with more than 20 years in financial services, including nearly 10 years on Wall Street and an MBA in Finance. Her career has spanned corporate bond research analyst, personal finance expert, angel investor, entrepreneur advisor and author. As an angel investor, she actively supports women led and impact start-ups. She is the Founder of Down to Earth Finance, independent personal finance education. She has been teaching at Barnard College’s Athena Center for Leadership and Freelancers Union for 10+ years. She has been widely quoted in The New York Times, NBC, CNN, and more. Previously, she worked at Bear Stearns and Nomura Securities. Galia is also the author of “My Money Matters” which was featured on TODAY SHOW,  the author of a novel The Accidental Suffragist, and co-host of the popular podcast “Fiscal Firecrackers” with leading actress Susan Yeagley - Funny Finally Meets Money. 



Christy Bonner loves reading fiction and enjoys writing almost as much as she loves reading. Christy has a stack of unfinished written works and is happy that other people are able to complete their projects so she has something to read. Christy is pleased she can support other writers on their writing journey through her work on the Westport Writers Workshop Board. When Christy is not writing for fun she can be found licensing technology for high tech and industrial companies. Christy holds a BA in Political Science as well as a JD with a specialty in Intellectual Property and MBA in International Business. 



Beth Stevens is an Emmy-winning writer, editor, and producer. She is a founding editor of, where she continues to serve as Managing Editor. She is the Supervising Producer for The Broadway Show, the only nationally syndicated weekly theater news program. She co-wrote and produced the Emmy-winning CBS Special At the Tonys and has worked for such companies as Bravo Television, Barrington Stage Company, Warner Brothers, the Sundance Institute, Richard Frankel Productions, and more. She taught creative writing and playwriting at the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center and The Writers' Wing. Her articles, fiction, and poetry have appeared in Time Out New York, American Theatre Magazine, Cleveland Magazine, The Syndrome, The Cape Rock, Chiron Review, The Waverly Review, and others. There are many people named Beth Stevens—this one is not the Harvard neuroscientist, country singer, finance consultant, or young performer in Liverpool.

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